International student brings experience in ecological restoration to Australia

By Jing Lu, Australian Rivers Institute PhD Candidate

I came to the Australian Rivers Institute (ARI) under a joint-doctoral program established by Griffith University and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS; the predecessor was the Graduate University of CAS).

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Some of Jing’s experiments with water plants from her work inChina.

Students who successfully complete all components of this program will be eligible to receive a PhD awarded by UCAS and Griffith respectively. It was a competitive program since only a small number of students (less than nine) were selected each year from more than 100 branch institutes of UCAS in China. We are all founded by “Griffith University Chinese Academy of Sciences Stipend Scholarship” and “Griffith University International Postgraduate Research Scholarship” to cover the tuition fee and living allowance to finish the study at Griffith University.

I was really lucky and very excited to be selected studying in the Australian Rivers Institute. Before commencing my studies at ARI, I had already completed a significant project in China aimed at restoring water plants that had disappeared from shallow lakes as a consequence of fertilizer run-off.

In China, I found that the natural recovery of those submerged plant species was very difficult due to the lack of seed banks and the high turbidity.

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Jing Lu waist deep into a study of freshwater plants

The interaction of different types of plants during restoration can also impact their recovery. For example, the free-floating plants have the potential to increase or decrease the growth of submerged macrophytes depends on cover intensities, substrate types, and growth forms of species. We found that plants can be restored to areas shallower than 3 m first by using several turbidity-tolerant species. Other species need to be reintroduced with a proper proportion of different species when conditions have been further improved.

Because of this experience, I got the opportunity to undertake my project in ARI. My current project in ARI is looking at the implications of water level fluctuations on water quality changes in shallow subtropical reservoirs based on the response of water plants. I found that water plants can be shifted from a nutrient sink to source due to drying and rewetting events. This study highlights the importance of managing both the duration and rate of water level drawdown in reservoirs to prevent water quality deterioration from the macrophytes point of view (the work will soon be published in the journal Freshwater Bioloyg).

I have been learning a lot in ARI, working with two greatest supervisors and the most wonderful ARI team. The welcoming atmosphere in ARI makes me feel extremely welcomed and less homesick even during the Chinese New Year celebration. Chinese New Year is our largest event in China and each family is supposed to have a reunion. The new Lunar New Year will be a Rooster year! I wish we could have more achievements based on the international cooperation in the new year to protect the future of our environment!

 

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